How to Plant and Grow Catnip

If you want to attract cats to your garden, or just make your own catnip toys, growing catnip plants is easy. Here’s a guide to planting and growing catnip, including tips on how to keep your plants healthy and productive.

Botanical Name:Nepeta Cataria
Other Names:Catnip, Catswort, Field Balm
Type of Plant:Perennial herb
Size and Appearance:Grows to 2-3 feet tall, with heart-shaped leaves and small white or lavender flowers.

Planting Time:

Spring or fall.

Blossoming Time:

Late spring to early summer.

Propagation:

From seed.

Sun:

Full sun to partial shade.

Temperature:

Between 60 – 70°F (16 – 21°C).

Soil:

Well-drained, sandy soil.

Watering:

Needs a medium amount of water.

Fertilize:

Fertilize once a year with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Uses:

The plant is used to make catnip oil, which is used in perfumes, soaps, and lotions. It is also used as a moth repellent.

How to grow Catnip in the garden step-by-step.

  1. Buy Catnip seeds.
  2. Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil.
  3. Prepare the soil by loosening it with a shovel and removing any rocks or debris.
  4. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting area and work it into the soil with a rake.
  5. Sow catnip seeds in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Press the seeds lightly into the soil, taking care not to bury them too deeply
  6. Water the seedbed gently with a hose or watering can, being careful not to wash the seeds away.
  7. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them out so that they are spaced about 12 inches apart.
  8. Fertilize catnip plants 
  9. Water catnip plants regularly during dry weather, providing 1 inch of water per week either from rainfall or irrigation.
  10. Pinch back catnip plants to encourage bushier growth and prevent them from getting leggy. 
  11. Harvest catnip leaves anytime during the growing season by cutting them off at the base of the plant with scissors or a sharp knife.

In the following, I will cover each step in a little more detail.

1. Buy Catnip seeds.

There are many places where catnip seeds can be bought, but the best place is a pet store.

Pet stores typically sell high-quality seeds that are specifically meant for cats.

2. Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. 

The ideal spot for Catnip plants in the garden is a sunny, well-drained location.

Catnip prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. It is a drought-tolerant plant, so it does not need much water once established.

3. Prepare the soil by loosening it with a shovel and removing any rocks or debris.

To prepare the soil in the garden for Catnip, first loosen the topsoil with a spade or tiller.

Then, remove any rocks or debris from the area. 

4. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting area and work it into the soil with a rake.

Add organic matter to the soil, such as compost or manure. Finally, level off the area and smooth it out. 

Possible obstacles when preparing the soil for Catnip include compaction, poor drainage, and lack of nutrients.

5. Sow catnip seeds in early spring, as soon as the ground can be worked.

The best time to sow catnip seeds is in the spring, after the last frost. Sow the seeds thinly in a row, about 1/4 inch deep. 

6. Water the seedbed gently with a hose or watering can, being careful not to wash the seeds away.

Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate, which usually takes 10-14 days.

A freshly planted Catnip needs a lot of water because it is a very thirsty plant.

It will need to be watered every day, and even more so in hot weather.

The reason for this is that Catnip has a very shallow root system, so it can’t hold onto water very well. This means that it will dry out quickly, and if it doesn’t get enough water it will die.

7. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them out so that they are spaced about 12 inches apart.

When the seedlings of Catnip are about 2 inches tall, it is time to thin them out.

You will need to thin the seedlings so that they are about 6 inches apart.

This will allow the plants to have enough room to grow and produce a good amount of leaves.

8. Fertilize catnip plants

with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.

Apply the fertilizer according to package directions, using less rather than more since too much fertilizer can burn the plant’s roots.

9. Water catnip plants regularly during dry weather, providing 1 inch of water per week either from rainfall or irrigation.

Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.

10. Pinch back catnip plants to encourage bushier growth and prevent them from getting leggy.

Do this when the plants are 6-8 inches tall by snipping off the tips of the stems with scissors or your fingers.

11. Harvest catnip leaves anytime during the growing season by cutting them off at the base of the plant with scissors or a sharp knife.

You can also harvest the entire plant by pulling it up by its roots. Hang dried catnip leaves in small bundles in a cool, dark place to preserve their potency.

The best time to harvest catnip is in the morning after the dew has evaporated, but before the sun gets too hot.

The leaves and stems will be at their most potent during this time.

Cut the plant back by about one-third to encourage new growth.

Cutting back catnip encourages new growth in spring by stimulating the plant to produce new leaves and stems.

Cut the plant back to about 6 inches above the ground, using sharp pruning shears. Make sure to make clean cuts so that the plant can heal quickly.

How to grow catnip in a planting pot

  1. Buy Catnip seeds and a planting pot.
  2. Fill the pot with soil, leaving about an inch from the top.
  3. Wet the soil until it is damp, but not soggy.
  4. Place the Catnip seeds on the surface of the soil, spacing them out evenly.
  5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, and mist with water.
  6. Place the pot in a warm, sunny spot, and keep the soil moist.
  7. Once the seeds have germinated, thin out to one or two plants per pot.
  8. When the plants are about 6 inches tall, pinch back the tips to encourage bushier growth.
  9. Allow the plants to flower, then cut back after flowering to keep them from going to seed.
  10. Harvest leaves as needed for fresh use, or dry for later use.
  11. Overwinter indoors in a cool, dry location if growing in a pot.
  12. Replant every few years to keep the plants vigorous

In the following, I will cover each step in a little more detail.

1. Buy Catnip seeds and a planting pot.

The best place to buy Catnip seeds is the pet store. Pet stores typically sell high-quality catnip that is fresh and potent.

The perfect pot for Catnip would be a small, ceramic pot with a drainage hole.

Catnip likes well-drained soil, so the drainage hole is important. The pot should be small because Catnip is a small plant.

2. Fill the pot with soil, leaving about an inch from the top.

The perfect potting mix for Catnip would be a mix of 50% peat moss and 50% perlite.

This mix would provide good drainage while still retaining some moisture. The pH should be around 6.5, which is slightly acidic.

A Catnip plant needs about 4-6 inches of potting mix. This will help the plant to get the nutrients it needs and also help with drainage.

3. Wet the soil until it is damp, but not soggy.

Catnip seeds need very little water to germinate.

In fact, they will often germinate without any supplemental watering at all if they are planted in a moist location.

However, if the soil is dry, they will need to be watered more frequently.

4. Place the Catnip seeds on the surface of the soil, spacing them out evenly.

To plant catnip seeds, place them on the soil in a planting pot and leave about an inch of space between the seeds.

5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil, and mist with water.

A Catnip plant needs very little water, especially when compared to other plants. After sowing the seeds, mist the soil with water. 

Once the seedlings emerge, water the plant if the soil is dry. If the plant is wilting, then it probably needs more water.

6. Place the pot in a warm, sunny spot, and keep the soil moist.

The perfect spot for Catnip indoors in a pot is in a sunny location. Catnip needs full sun to partial shade to grow well. It also needs well-drained soil.

7. Once the seeds have germinated, thin out to one or two plants per pot.

To thin Catnip seedlings, first wait until they are about 4-6 inches tall.

Next, using a sharp knife or scissors, cut off the weaker seedlings at the soil line, being careful not to damage the roots of the stronger seedlings.

Finally, transplant the stronger seedlings to their own individual pots or into the garden, spacing them about 12 inches apart.

8. When the plants are about 6 inches tall, pinch back the tips to encourage bushier growth.

To pinch back the tips of Catnip plants, use your fingers to gently grasp the stem just above the topmost leaf.

Gently twist and pull the stem until it snaps off cleanly.

This will encourage the plant to produce more leaves and stems, resulting in a fuller, bushier plant.

9. Allow the plants to flower, then cut back after flowering to keep them from going to seed.

Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers from a plant. This encourages the plant to produce new flowers, and can help to prolong the blooming period.

Catnip is a fast-growing, short-lived herb that produces an abundance of small white flowers.

Deadheading will not only keep the plant looking tidy, but will also encourage it to produce more flowers.

To deadhead catnip, simply snip off the spent flowers at the base of the stem.

10. Harvest leaves as needed for fresh use, or dry for later use.

The best time to harvest catnip is in the morning, after the dew has evaporated and before the sun gets too hot.

The leaves and stems will be at their most potent during this time. Cut the plant back by about one-third to encourage new growth.

11. Overwinter indoors in a cool, dry location if growing in a pot.

Bring outdoors again in spring when all danger of frost has passed. 

12. Replant every few years to keep the plants vigorous

Catnip plants have to be replanted every few years because they become woody and less productive over time.

What is Catnip used for?

Catnip can be used in a variety of ways, including as food, tea, or medicine. It also has a long history of use in esoteric and spiritual practices.

Catnip is best known for its effect on cats. Cats may eat catnip to help with an upset stomach or play with a toy that has been infused with catnip.

As a food, catnip can be used in a number of dishes, including soups, stews, and salads. 

It can also be used to make tea. 

When used medicinally, catnip is said to have a number of benefits, including relief from colds, flu, and stomachaches. 

A poultice made from catnip can be applied to bruises or insect bites to reduce swelling and pain.

The plant can also be used to repel mosquitoes and other insects.

Catnip is also said to be helpful in promoting sleep and relaxation.

In esoteric and spiritual practices, catnip is often associated with the element of water and is said to be helpful in divination and dream work. It is also said to promote psychic abilities and intuition.

Facts about Catnip

  • Catnip is a member of the mint family
  • It is native to Europe and Asia
  • The scientific name for catnip is Nepeta cataria
  • It is a perennial herb
  • Catnip can grow to be up to three feet tall
  • The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped and the flowers are white or pale purple
  • When cats smell catnip, it can cause them to become excited, playful, or even aggressive

Photo of author
Written By Vincent

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